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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                        217
sun, and at the wide expanse looming blue in the twilight
beyond the woods.
uw.. .You are a military man. tell me, is it right? For
over a year now we've been fighting fascism single-hand-
ed. What do you think of that? But where are our allies,
and the second front? Now you just picture it to your-
self: Robbers attack a man who, suspecting nothing, was
labouring in the sweat of his brow. But this man doesn't
lose his head. He goes for those robbers and fights them.
He is bleeding all over, but he keeps on fighting with
whatever weapon he can lay his hands on. One against
many; they are armed, and had been lying in wait for
him a long time. Yes. And the man's neighbours see this
fight. They stand at their doors and sympathise with the
man, encourage him and say: 'Good for you, boy! Give
it to *em! Give it to 'em hot!' And instead of going to his
assistance they offer him sticks and stones and say: 'Here
you are! Hit 'em with this! Hit 'em hard!' But they keep
out of the fight themselves. Yes. That's how our allies
are behaving!... Passengers, that's all they are...."
Meresyev turned round and looked at the old man
with interest. Many other passengers in the crowded car
were looking in their direction, and from all sides came
"Yes, he is right! We're fighting single-handed! Where's
the second front?"
"Never mind! We'll buckle in and beat the enemy
ourselves. They'll, no doubt, come along with their second
front when it's all over!"
The train made a short stop. Several wounded men
in pyjamas, some on crutches and others with walking-
sticks, and all carrying paper bags with sunflower seeds
or berries, got into the car. They must have come from
some sanatorium to the market at this place. The old
man in the pince-nez at once jumped up and almost forc-
ibly pushed a red-haired lad on crutches, with a ban-
daged leg, into his seat.
"Sit here, my boy, sit here!" he cried. "Don't worry
about me. I'll be getting off soon."
To prove that he meant it, the old man picked up
his gardening tools and made for the door. The milk
women squeezed up to make room for the wounded men.